It is always enjoyable to speculate about the future. Of course, our ancestors did the same. They made predictions about life in the twenty-first century. Some of the most interesting predictions were about transportation.
In the earlier part of the twentieth century, Popular Science Magazine often had covers that depicted commuters buzzing around in tiny aircraft and landing on rooftops, or fanciful drawings of vehicles that not only run on roads, but also float on water and take to the air. Later years saw the prediction of a person strapping on a jetpack and levitating into the air, allowing him or her to commute to work effortlessly. (I always wondered how they would handle rain and snowstorms.) My father collected every Popular Science Magazine since the 1920s, and I remember spending many hours poring over those old editions when I was a child.
Some fanciful predictions were actually built. For instance, how about the Beach Pneumatic Railway, New York City’s earliest subway? It was actually built; hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers took a smooth ride on compressed air when this model railway was open from 1870-1873. Newspapers and magazines of the era predicted that subways would soon exist in every city, all riding on compressed air. Despite commuter enthusiasm, this subway failed.
Of course, some of the predictions did come true and were manufactured in large quantities. One early 1940s advertisement from Milwaukee Machine Tools boldly predicted that air conditioning would become available for automobiles after the war. You can see this at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/news_events/exhibits/futuristics/auto/1.html
The University of California at Berkeley has created an online exhibition of transportation predictions made over the centuries. The exhibit starts with Leonardo da Vinci’s visions of helicopters and airplanes and moves forward to recent times. These are the same pictures and words that fueled the imaginations of our ancestors. This is how they thought their descendants would live and travel. It is fun to see which of those predictions came true as well as the many that did not.
My favorites include the flying automobile at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/news_events/exhibits/futuristics/auto/ and the automobile-mounted paging system at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/news_events/exhibits/futuristics/auto/2.html. Even these futurists never envisioned a miniature beeper on a person's belt.
You can look at the future predictions of the past at http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/news_events/exhibits/futuristics/